and then there were ten…

Twin girls. Due June 7th. Joining our crazy, awesome family.

I’m 43. I love where I’m at. I love the freedom of my life. (Yes, you can have lots of freedom with a large family.) And yet, when the call comes from above, I will answer. Every time!

Not sure I’ll be getting much sleep in the next two years, but they say it will keep me young. Heaven knows I can use all the young I can get, so . . .

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when you choose to send a child back. . .

A mom (we’ll call her Natalie) contacted me a few months back. This almost-adoptive mom and I had never spoken before.

When I answered the phone, she was sobbing. It took a few moments to understand who was calling and why. This mom was at her wit’s end. She said, “Rachel, I don’t know you and it is completely unlike me to reach out for help, especially to someone I don’t know, so I must be pretty desperate.”

I sat silent for a few seconds and then simply said, “Tell me.”

Natalie talked. I listened.

It’s a familiar story. One I’ve heard dozens of times before. A mom, desperate for a child or more children, reaches out to adopt a child. A “feeling” pulls her toward it. She feels good about it. A win-win, right?


Natalie was set up to fail from the beginning. She had no training. None. She was unprepared for the realities of parenting an older child. She was completely ill-equipped for the inevitable adjustment period–overwhelmed by the day-to-day routine of helping a wounded child.

We can blame the system. We can blame the two states that failed to prepare her, to train her, to take the time and effort required to help Natalie and her husband understand that the child will not see them as saviors. That he won’t be grateful . . . not at first anyway. That just because they are “family” doesn’t mean they will instantly fall head-over-heels in love with each other. That bonding isn’t a given. Bonding is never a given.

Things got so bad that Natalie ended up sending the child back to his original state. By the time she reached out for help, her mind was really already made up. She had lost the heart to try. To give it another go. The thought of repairing the family, helping heal their almost son, was just too daunting.

Who lost here? Everyone.

Natalie lost. Big time. She lost the chance to add to her family. To parent an incredible little boy.

Her biological son lost. He lost a brother. He lost the chance to share and to give and to love in a way that only a sibling can.

Her extended family, friends that were like family, teachers and leaders, etc. They all lost too.

And of course, the most important person here, the little boy–who was promised a family, a home, a life–he lost the most. He lost everything. A third time. He lost his original family, his foster family, and Natalie’s family. Each uprooted experience for this little guy piles on the loss, the mistrust, the anxiety, the trauma.

Everyone lost!

If you know someone who is thinking of adopting, please, send them my way. This particular situation was potentially avoidable. If Natalie had been trained. If she had been informed by real adoptive parents, by those of us who know what she was walking into, things could’ve been different for her. Armed with resources and community behind her, she would’ve at least had a fighting chance.

We will continue to train and inform and support so that every adoptive parent has the resources they need to eventually win.

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changing seasons

Hannah, my youngest, turned five a few months ago. She was tall enough that we needed to move her out of the five-point and into a regular booster seat. Every time I went to take the car seat out, I stopped, telling myself I would do it “tomorrow.” Every day after Kinder pickup I helped Hannah out of the car, looked at the new booster seat—calling to me from the porch—and said we would change her seat out soon. This went on for weeks.

You see, this was no ordinary car seat. The photograph tells the story. The story of our family. The story of children lost and children found. The well-worn fabric and tattered edges hold moments of tears and joy. The deep stains tell the tale of thousands of miles traveled and hundreds of memories made. The cup holder never filled with drinks, but instead filled with treasures and trinkets and lots of binkies reminds us of the different ages and stages that have filled this particular seat during its many years of service.

Children we fostered. Children we adopted. Children who were reunited with their birth parents and children who were eventually adopted by someone else. This particular car seat stayed the course.

So yeah, it was no ordinary seat at all…

It’s liberating when your last child no longer needs you to climb across her lap to help her buckle. No more reaching behind the driver’s seat as your arm pops out of its socket to pick up a toy, or undo the five-point, or grab the drink that she just can’t reach.

But it is also terrifying. Now what? We have lived more than a decade reaching across the seat. Scrubbing the stains that refuse to come up. Cleaning the cup holder and all the trinkets inside.

Seasons change. It is true. But what if we don’t want the season to be over? What if we have one more go in us? What if our six teenagers haven’t quite sucked the living life out of us just yet? What then….

Eventually, I privately and unceremoniously wedged myself behind the seat, detached the anchors, emptied the trash from the deepest crevasse, and wiped the leather seat beneath with a rag and with my tears. I set the seat on the sidewalk and climbed back into my car, staring through my rearview mirror.

What if this was it? It might not be so bad, I thought. A new season.

Not a closed book, just a finished chapter. The best thing about a great book is that you can go back and revisit it over and over again—enjoying the best chapters, the best moments from its pages.

I’m not sure what the future holds for our McFamily. More babies? Maybe. But probably not. More memories, more opportunities, more chances to enjoy the season we are now in? Certainly!

We can revisit chapters of our lives, but we cannot relive them. Contentment. Enjoying the season we are in. That’s it. That’s real life and real living. Closing a chapter isn’t the end, but a new chance for growth and for change. A new season.

May we embrace the seasons as they come, living in them fully–allowing each to change us for the better.



What season of life are you in? How is it changing you for the better?

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6 ways to support a friend’s adoption

Recently, my sister and her husband traveled to Colombia to adopt their new son. Serendipitously, their adoption matched up with our dear friends’ who are also adopting from the same country. In fact, both families traveled at exactly the same time and are each still in-country waiting for their respective adoptions to finalize. Exciting, right? It is. Super.

As I have followed their stories and Facebook posts over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been catapulted into my personal past. To an adoption of four Colombian siblings nearly 10 years ago. I can smell it. Taste it. Touch it. The days were long as we adjusted to our new life together. Bonding, language barriers, and pre-molded personalities took constant time and attention, especially the first two months home. Magical moments were there though, in the longness of the days.

Our friends and family were the ones that helped make those first weeks and months bearable. Their acts of kindness and support meant so much and made our adjustment period simply doable! Do you have a friend or family member adopting soon? Maybe they are already adopting or just came home with their new little one(s). Maybe you know someone that is considering adoption in the future. Let me share 6 ways you can offer your love and support in tangible, meaningful ways:

  1. Throw an Adoption Celebration. Yes, do this! If there is just one thing you do for an adoptive family, it should be this. It doesn’t matter if the child is a newborn or turning 15. Adoptive families already feel like a giant, school of fish out of water, especially those who are adopting a non-newborn. An adoption celebration helps the parents feel your love and acceptance and also helps the new child feel special and included. When our family threw an adoption shower for our first adoption, we felt the full love and support of everyone in our extended circle of influence. And it was super fun. I mean who doesn’t want to register for a family tent and Wii games?!? If you cant throw a party or someone has already taken that job, put Welcome Home signs in their yard, send them a card of congratulations, have your children drop a token of friendship off to the new children. Big or small, do something to celebrate the beauty of adoption.
  2. Meals. Meals. Meals. Yeah, I know, the mom did not just come home from the hospital and she is not physically recovering from birthing a child. No, no, she is actually dealing with much harder things. A new, adoptive mom is busy integrating awkward, little people (and sometimes not so little) with all of their emotions and demands into an existing family structure. She’s also busy finding services, setting up appointments, registering for school, scouts, activities, etc. It’s kind of a lot and the last thing she is thinking about is eating or feeding her family. Whether you bring in fresh meals, bring over freezer meals for the future, or invite the family to eat at your house, they are not only a loving gesture of support, but they are also very needed for most new parents.
  3. Stock the Pantry. Can you imagine the new adoptive parents coming home from a long trip to another country with new children in tow? All they want to do at that point is sleep, hug their kiddos, and sleep some more. With our adoption, our friends had completely stocked our pantry the day we arrived home. We had milk, cereal, bread, fruit, and veggies packed in our fridge and pantry. I didn’t care about brands or types or even the level of healthiness, I was just so grateful to not have to go to the grocery store for a week. It was the kindest act of love and actually made a huge difference those first few days home.
  4. Make Yourself Available. Sometimes the new kids adjust easily. Sometimes they have a rough time. New moms and dads can be just as tired as when they are juggling 3:00 a.m. feedings. Taking over carpool for a few days, teaching a friend’s Sunday School class for a couple of weeks, or just letting the family know that you can pick up the slack with anything for a little while is another amazing way that you can support adoption.
  5. Don’t be Weird. Seriously! Be normal. An adoptive family’s life might be crazy for a short time while they adjust, but the biggest thing they need is to feel normal. If you leave them alone or stop inviting or act weird around the new kids, well, that’s exactly the opposite of supporting someone so just don’t do it. These kids aren’t going anywhere and they need love and support from their entire, new village. They don’t have cooties. They aren’t going to hurt your children. They are just normal kids who have lived a not-so-normal life and need others to help them understand what normal is. Their parents will let you know if an invite is too soon. It never was for us. We were so anxious to integrate the kids and have our friends fall head over heals for them. And they did. Quickly.
  6. Give Grace. Some adoptive parents may have rules or new ways of parenting that you have never seen before. They may be dealing with issues such as food hoarding, PTSD, indiscriminate attachment, etc. This means that they may not allow their children hug you or may not allow them to have certain foods. They may not let them play alone with your children right away. And the list goes on. This is not weird. This does not mean the children are bad. It only means they are learning boundaries where there may never have been none. They may be learning to love and attach for the first time. These are monumental tasks that come naturally to newborns, but are learned skills for anyone who was deprived early on. What can you do? Support new rules. Ask permission to direct the children or to help feed them etc? Sometimes it’s not a thing at all. When in doubt, ask! And as the new family learns as they go, show them copious amounts of grace.

All those years ago, in a house on Whistling Duck, our amazing friends and family didn’t miss a beat. They did all of the things mentioned here and more. My prayer for all adoptive families is that they have similar experiences. You can make a direct difference in how quickly and wholly these families adjust. We have several more friends heading off for adoptions over the next few months. Perhaps these ideas will help you navigate the sacred roles of love and friendship that are crucial in supporting adoptive families. I can guarantee one thing–It matters.

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five simple ways to support host families

Many of my friends and family know someone hosting an “orphan” or two or six the next few weeks. Most of them are so supportive and excited, but they may not know exactly what to say or do to show that support. Others are curious and unsure of this strange thing their church friend or family member has decided to do. It is easy to put a foot in a mouth or suffer from “paralysis by analysis” in new and different situations such as this. You know you want to do something, say something, act somehow on their behalf, but you are not sure what they need, what the right thing to say is. Or even what the heck these families are doing. Am I right?

All of the children arriving to the States today are hoping to be adopted. Many of the host families are also hoping to adopt their matches. Others are here to advocate for their host child in hopes of finding them an adoptive home. No matter the exact circumstance, successful mechanisms of support are the same.

Here are a few simple pointers to help you spread the love and show support:

–DO NOT SAY STUPID STUFF. “The child will ruin your life and your children’s lives.” True story. Do not say stuff like that. If you are vehemently opposed and are not open to changing your mind, you should actually not say anything. However, if you are just unsure or a little reserved, say stuff like “I am intrigued by this experience, tell me a little about how you decided to do this.” Instead of saying, “I could never do that, you are crazy!” say, “I am not sure I could open my home, but I want to know more, tell me what drew you to this program or this child.”

You could even be super direct. Just say “I have no idea how to support you, but I really want to. Tell me one thing I can do.” I love direct. Do not tell the parent they are a savior, a hero, or amazing. Tell them they can do this, that they are stronger than they think they are, that they have you as a wing man, and that your faithfulness is theirs.

–RESERVE JUDGMENT. Stay Open. Maybe you know a family member who’s adoption didn’t work out like they thought it would. Maybe you have your own bias against different races or ethnicities mixing in a family. Maybe you saw a 60-minute interview a decade ago where some random child from a random place destroyed a random family’s home after they opened their hearts to said child. If these are your only experiences with adoption, Get Another One. Yes, bad things happen to good people. But the last time I checked most murderers, rapists, and drug dealers came from biological families. Mental health issues are universal. Instead of worrying about the what if’s, use this as a time to get to know the child of your friend. Those without family are people too. They think, feel, have hopes and dreams just like you and me and the children we are raising. Imagine if you didn’t have a family…no one in the world. Yeah, that would really suck. We have the ability to change that.

–SOCIAL SHARE. Tell others like crazy. For a million and one reasons the match may not be successful. Most of these children age out of care and/or are not available for adoption once they hit the ages of 15-16. You could be the difference. Tell people about these kids. Share their story. Add friends and friends of friends to the private advocacy pages that each family has set up. As these children become real to others, their chances for a forever home skyrocket. God or the universe or whatever you want to call it could be working on someone else’s heart….if you open your mouth or click “share” you may just connect that anonymous heart with a beautiful child who needs a home.

–DO SOMETHING. In moments like this talk really is cheap. Do something visible. Anonymous is so awesome. But in times like this, your friends and family need to See people in their corner. They need to Feel the love and know who they can trust, who they can text, who they can rely on. Most of the host families are new to adoption–especially that of older kids. They may not know what they exactly need. But they will need something. And reaching out can be scary if they are unsure of your support level.

I literally had no idea what I would need when I came home from Bogota with four little kids. When we finally arrived home at midnight though, we were greeted by friends and family. They had signs and pictures and smiles aplenty. They had stocked our fridge and pantry and sorted bags of donated clothes. They framed pictures we had previously posted from our weeks in Bogota so the kids could see a piece of themselves in their new home. One dear friend who lived in California made travel blankets and care packages for our kids’ ride from LAX to Las Vegas. She made the drive to meet us and hug us before we left for Nevada. Practical. Thoughtful. Kind. It helped the kids on the drive and showed me the bursting love and support she wanted me to feel. I knew she would do anything for me. Exactly what I needed in that moment.

The options are truly endless. Heart attack a door. Organize a clothing swap. Invite the entire family over for dinner and swimming. Learn a few words in the child’s language and practice with them. Send a note of encouragement to the parents. Mow their yard. Text your bestie and ask if she needs to escape for ice cream after bedtime. And just let your buddy talk, no judgments on the table, just unconditional love.

Meals are an excellent way to show support. I received no meals when we came home from Colombia or when we received our three siblings from foster care, and I needed them way more at that time than when I had a bio baby. People do not naturally see the two experiences as equal because the children are older or maybe not permanent. That’s okay, but now you know. Parents are just as tired–maybe more so, just as focused on the new children in the house, trying to navigate relationships, keeping everyone safe, creating routines, bonding, etc. If a family says no to a meal, just show up with muffins and juice, frozen breakfast burritos, or snack bags for the kids. Something easy they can use in a pinch. Food is Love!

–SPEAK. Silence is truly Deafening. Whether spoken or not,  adoptive parents of older children carry the bag of “What If’s” over their shoulders. What if this child is not accepted? What if this child is not loved by those that love me? What if the negative comments are actually true? What if I made a mistake? What if I am not strong enough to do this? I could write a hundred more What Ifs, but you get my point. Above all, if you make eye contact or see one of your friends at church or at an event, Do Not Dart Away. Smile. Say hi. Be polite. You don’t even need to speak. Just give a long hug of encouragement.

The families who are hosting are just awesome. They are so excited, nervous, faith-filled, and a little apprehensive. They have spent dozens of hours applying, taking classes, completing homestudies, preparing for their children’s arrivals…and some sleepless nights wondering what the heck they have gotten themselves into. It’s kind of a big deal. Love on them, if you know them. And social share if you do not. All kids need homes. A world where every child has a home would be an awesome place to live. We can make that happen one child at a time, whether here or abroad.

All my love,


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You know how God moves through your life imperceptibly most days? I mean, you know he’s there, but don’t give much thought to his soft, graceful movements as they gently course correct you along your daily path. Yeah, me too! Even though I am deeply rooted in faith, I often forget that my life is being daily directed by something bigger than myself.

But sometimes we get pushed, hard! Forget the gentle nudging…

God gave me a push two months ago. It was actually more like a fist right to the middle of the back, thrusting me wildly forward. There was no mistaking the push and from whence it came. Kind of like, “Rachel, I NEED you to hear me. Stop getting in your own way. Focus on Me and I will show you EXACTLY what I need you to do.” So I shut up. And He did tell me.

The end result: I wrote my first book!

I have actually wanted to write it for a long time and life (that whole eight children thing) just seemed to always get in my way. Soft whispers and gentle jabs weren’t cutting it! So God pushed, and I responded. Life isn’t going to ever slow down and I have really important things He needs me to do.

This first book details my story from infertily and loss to family and beyond. Subsequent books will focus on helping those who want to foster or adopt, and perhaps even more importantly, will also focus on post-adoption and foster help. Resources, stories, curriculums, my ear. You name it, I’m here!

We are revamping this blog to accommodate the changes. Hoping to help many who seem hesitant to make the leap, lost in the process, and struggling in the aftermath of Adoption and Foster Care.

How is God moving through your life right now? Is he softly blowing whispers your way hoping you’ll swiftly correct your course? Or is he rushing through your window like a strong spring windstorm trying desperately to get your attention? What does He have for you to do? I guarantee there is something.

All I can say is continue to Look Up. Expect Miracles. Cause miracles will and do happen!

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5 reasons your teen isn’t like other teens…

For family and friends of kids with attachment issues. We know you want to understand. We know you want to be supportive. You want to get it! Articles like this help with the how, not just with the why.

5 reasons your teen with reactive attachment disorder isn’t like “all other teenagers”

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to past memories and new adventures

(posted by rachel)
It is hard to believe that the start of our crazy adoption adventures beginning in Bogota, Colombia almost a decade ago has landed us here. I have two children preparing to drive. Four awkward middle-schoolers. A pretty little fourth grader. And a three year old who started as a frozen emby and currently runs the house. And all of this was accomplished in eight short years. Crazy. Exhausting. Frustrating at times. And I wouldn’t change a single moment. A single decision. A single opportunity.

In searching my blog archives today for an upcoming adoption book series, I was overcome with emotion. Honestly, I had forgotten half of what was written and I was so grateful for the efforts put into this project from the beginning. It has preserved memories and fostered relationships that will last past a lifetime. A part of those efforts are not mine alone, but yours…comments and support from readers, fellow adoptive parents, amazing family, and awesome friends. The interactions from the blog have brought me lasting friendships with others who have walked this path. I value their thoughts and opinions. They have helped shape my adoption and parenting experience over the years. I just love them all!

The blog comments stand collectively as a preservation of my circle of influence from that time period. I love this so much! It’s a history of the people who supported us, loved us, and were present in our lives during a most significant moment in time.

It is just so cool. And my children will always have that as a historical witness to how much they were loved…even before they came here. I was in tears on the phone tonight with Adam. Waxing nostalgic, as usual. We are entering a new chapter in our lives. A new decade. A new house. A new way to help others who have adopted, want to adopt, and those that love them. It’s kind of surreal to think of where we started and where we are now. It’s gone so fast. A blink, really. And yet, that day in Colombia when four little strangers became ours seems like a lifetime ago. Sometimes I even forget that it happened ’cause they are just ours. And I wouldn’t change it, ever.

Here is to new adventures. New ways of reaching out. New ways of loving and connecting. And perhaps a new adoption still. :)

It is not the years in your life, but the life in your years!

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and so it begins

We’re doing it again. Adoption that is. Yay! China. Two kiddos. So excited. More info to come. Official Application Date was April 22, 2016.

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what if

I wanted to try and have another baby. I mean, is that really so bad? Shutting the door makes so much sense. For so many reasons. And yet, I can’t stop thinking about it.

All. The. Time.

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